José Colon in the Museum galleries with his painting. Photo: Beatriz Meseguer/onwhitewall.com

Beyond the Uniform

Listen to security officers sharing their love, knowledge, and personal connections to five works in MoMA’s collection.
Alethea Rockwell Mar 30, 2020

Based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo works with everyone from skateboarders to neighbors in El Cerro to create what he calls “mini utopias.” As we began planning a collaborative project at the Museum as part of the Catalyst program, he mentioned he’d long been interested in collaborating with museum security officers.

With the help of security supervisor Chet Gold, I introduced Rosado-Seijo to a group of officers who are also artists, musicians, and writers. They immediately hit it off, and together we began a discussion. The officers—José Colon, Chet Gold, Rabbila Konock, José Martinez, Kevin Reid, Eva Luisa Rodríguez, Eric “Scottie” Scott, Joseph N. Tramatano, and Brian Wilson—collectively developed their ideas to make the art on view feel more relevant to visitors.

They brought insights from their own creative practices, personal relationships with works of art in the collection, and significant knowledge about modern and contemporary art. They wanted to look at the collection through stories about New York City, where many of them were born and raised, how art expresses different facets of feminism, and the often overlooked work of Black and Brown artists. They were eager to share how they personally relate to art, through works that represent their understanding of the world. And they hoped visitors could have similarly meaningful encounters. Together, we decided to create an audio playlist featuring their voices and ideas and plan a day of programming that they would lead at the Museum.

Officers brainstorm in the MoMA Sculpture Garden

Officers brainstorm in the MoMA Sculpture Garden

A brainstorming meeting

A brainstorming meeting

The security officers’ audio playlist encourages us to look “beyond the uniform” and get to know the artists and experts who stand guard in the galleries.

To start you off, you’ll find five audio pieces from the playlist below, and I encourage you to listen to all 18 and read about the nine participating officers at the Beyond the Uniform audio page.

Only have half an hour? This series, Take Five, invites you to spend time with five objects in the Museum linked by a common theme.

Special thanks to the rest of the Education team behind Beyond the Uniform: Sarah Kennedy, Hannah Fagin, Pablo Helguera, Sara Bodinson, and Jenna Madison.

Kerry James Marshall. Untitled (policeman). 2015

Kevin Reid speaks in front of Kerry James Marshall’s painting

Kevin Reid speaks in front of Kerry James Marshall’s painting

Kevin Reid is a rapper and songwriter from Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Listen to him describe how he relates to the experience of being a Black man in a uniform and hear his original rap “Mr. Invisible.”

Listen

Frida Kahlo. Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair. 1940

Eva Luisa Rodríguez performing as Frida Kahlo in front of Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair

Eva Luisa Rodríguez performing as Frida Kahlo in front of Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair

Eva Luisa Rodríguez is a Taínian-American artist and poet. Listen to her spoken-word piece written in response to Kahlo’s self-portrait.

Listen

Vincent van Gogh. Portrait of Joseph Roulin. 1889

José Colon and Chemi Rosado-Seijo with Vincent Van Gogh’s Portrait of Joseph Roulin

José Colon and Chemi Rosado-Seijo with Vincent Van Gogh’s Portrait of Joseph Roulin

José Colon is a graffiti artist and style writer from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, who was part of the New York graffiti community of the 1980s. Over his 21-year career as a security officer at MoMA his style as an artist has evolved, drawing inspiration from the Museum’s collection. Hear him describe Van Gogh’s friendship with a postman.

Listen

Keith Haring. Untitled. 1982

Chet Gold and Brian Wilson pose in front of a collective mural made with visitors and inspired by Keith Haring

Chet Gold and Brian Wilson pose in front of a collective mural made with visitors and inspired by Keith Haring

Brian Wilson, aka Soigné Deluxe, is a performer and multidisciplinary artist. Listen to him describe how he relates to Keith Haring as an openly gay, working artist. Brian also led MoMA visitors in collectively drawing this UNITEAZY mural.

Listen

James Whale (Director). Film still from Frankenstein. 1931

Joseph N. Tramantano with a still from Frankenstein

Joseph N. Tramantano with a still from Frankenstein

Joe Tramantano is a drummer, artist, and voice actor. He is also a major horror fan and expert in all aspects of the film genre. Hear him discuss the film Frankenstein and his early exposure to horror movies.

Listen

BONUS!
Watch the Beyond the Uniform Crew, a band that formed through the making of this project, perform at MoMA.